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Alternative Forage Crop Feed Quality Possibilities

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
June 18, 2014         
Source:  Dan Martens, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

Alternative Forage Crop Feed Quality Possibilities
By Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension

FOLEY, Minn. (06/13/14) —  We had around 100 people attend a discussion meeting in Foley at Henry’s Catering on June 10 on topics that included a review of crop insurance rules, crop choices for feed needs; crop production practices, yield and feed quality; and dairy rations concepts. Alternative forage crops can be useful for beef cattle and some for sheep as well.

CROP INSURANCE. After May 31 for corn and June 10 for soybeans, farmers who carry crop insurance and have serious concerns about what they might be able to plant yet should contact their crop insurance company to review policies, and to file a request for prevented planting provisions. Farmer still have flexibility in making planting decisions. Filing the request given the crop insurance agent and adjusters the chance to document conditions and provide details about how different planting options might play out. This is good information to use in making decisions.

If recent heavy rains require crop to be replanted, contact agents before replanting work is done to find out if there is a portion of costs that might be covered.

If you are thinking about switching to other crops, and your creditor or cash flow situation indicates that you need some insurance protection if crops turn out poorly as the year unfolds, consider these issues as you talk with your insurance agent, creditors or others. 

FEED QUALITY. Last week I offered information about yields that might be gotten from a variety of crops planted mid-May, Mid-June and around July 1 – based on an “Emergency Forage Alternatives Field Trial” that was done by U of M Extension in 2002 and 2003. This week I’m using a table the shows some of the feed quality data from this study. Obviously this varies from year to year. Work closely with you livestock nutrition advisors as you consider strategies for producing feed. Switching to crops other than corn silage will likely mean using or buying more corn.

CP is crude protein. NDFd is digestible Neutral Detergent Fiber. Milk/T is milk per ton and indicates feed quality. Milk/A is milk per acre and indicates a combination of yield and feed quality. These figures are the average of data collected from plots planted around July 1 at Pelican Rapids in 2002 and 2003, from Rosemount in 2002 and St. Paul in 2003. This will be different if you are waiting until after November 1 to harvest to protect prevented planting payments. 

Forage Quality for Crops Planted around July 1
                                      CP.     NDFd   Milk/T   Milk/A
Corn Silage (80 day)        8.9    51.0       2320      10050
Corn Silage (90 day)        8.5    50.3       2500      11430     
Corn Silage (100 day)      8.3    52.2       2490      12760
BMR Forage Sorghum      9.1    59.7       3150      15090
Sudangrass                   12.8   51.1       2220        9140
Sorghum-sudan            13.5   52.1       2260        9710
Japanese millet             16.0   49.5       2230        6040
Hybrid Pearl Millet        14.4   52.2       2260        9900
Barley                           22.7   56.3       2550        2640
Oats and Peas              18.0   47.3       2300        2560
Soybeans                     19.4   40.8       2620        6120
Siberian Foxtail millet  17.5   58.1       2390        4310
German Foxtail millet   14.0   57.1       2270        6790

Summary comments in this study indicated that corn and forage sorghum may be among the best choices for planting dates even in early July based on yield and feed quality. You’re welcome to call me for a copy of the whole report. You can do a website search for “Minnesota Extension Spring Planting Resources.” You can also search the internet for “Wisconsin Extension Forage” for similar information.

A LOCAL FIELD. I measured the corn silage yield on a farm near Foley that was planted around July 1, 2013 and harvested around November 1, 2013. It calculated to yield 10.1 Tons of corn silage at 65% moisture. This is 3.48 tons of dry matter per acre. That’s probably 55 to 60% of the yield you might expect on this land. The feed sample from this field tested CP at 8.91, NDFd at 51.6, Milk/T at 3152, Milk/A at 10,870, and starch at 24%. This corn had just started to dent when it was killed by frost later than usual in October. An earlier frost would change things some.

NOTE: Check for alfalfa weevil larvae (AWL) if second crop alfalfa doesn’t green-up fairly soon after cutting. Cutworms or armyworms may be active in some fields too. We may need to watch for AWL through second crop harvest.

Dairy Breakfast on the Farm events will be held Saturday June 21 in Benton County at Loren Mielke’s and in Morrison County at Myron Czech’s.



Daniel Martens
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems
(320) 968-5077
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